Beginner’s Guide to Google+

If you want to know what Google+ is and how to use it, read on for Rachel’s complete beginner’s guide, starting with the name.

How do I say Google+?
Google+ is pronounced ‘Google Plus’

What is Google+?
Google+ is a social networking site, much life Facebook. There are three main differences between Google+ and Facebook:

  • Google+ is owned by Google, and therefore ties in with Google’s other services, like Gmail and Google Maps
  • Google+ has only just opened to the public, so there are fewer people and organisations currently signed up.
  • Google+ is simpler than Facebook. It only offers the services people are really using, without all the extra stuff. This may change as its popularity grows.

How do I sign up?

Go to and click on +You in the top left hand corner

If you have a Google account, such as a Gmail account, click the orange ‘Sign In’ button, and enter your Google account details. If you have never signed up for a Google account, click the ‘Create an account’ button, then go back and click the orange ‘Sign In’ button.

You will be asked to create an account. Fill in your name and gender, and upload a photo so your friends can recognise you. There is also a tickbox that says “Google may use my information to personalize content and ads on non-Google web sites”. If you leave this ticked Google will watch what you say and look at on Google+, and it will then make sure the ads you see on other websites are more relevant to you. It all feels a bit big-brother to me, so I chose to untick this box.

When you hit the ‘Join’ button you will be asked to link your Google+ account with your Picasa albums. You don’t have a choice about this – you have to click ‘Link Google+ with Picasa Web’. Clicking ‘Cancel’ will just stop the signing up process. If you do use Picasa (Google’s photo sharing service) it just means your photos will appear in your account. If you don’t, it doesn’t make a difference.

Next Google+ will ask you for some personal information. You don’t have to fill this out, but it’s really helpful if people are trying to find you. This is particularly important if there is someone else with the same name as you on Google+.

Filling in this extra information helps your friends work out which one is you. Once you are done, click continue. You are now signed up!

Yes, I’m signed up, but what do I do with it?
The way Google+ organises your friends is in circles. A circle is just a group that classifies what information that person can see. You might have a circle for your reading group, so that when you make a post about the next meeting only they can see it, or a circle for your family, so that everyone but the members of that circle can read what you are saying about the upcoming Christmas party you have to attend.

When you sign up the first thing you will see is a list of all the people Google+ thinks you might know and want to add to one of your circles. Google+ suggests these people based on your email address book, and on any extra information you filled in (such as someone who went to the same school as you).

To add someone hover over the ‘Add to circles’ button, and then select the circle you wish to add them to. You can also make a new circle by clicking the ‘Create new circle’ button.

When you have finished adding people click the ‘Continue’ button.

You should end up on the Google+ homescreen. This is where you will see things people in your circles have written. You can do a number of different things from this screen.

If you click on one of your circles you will only see posts from people in that circle.

You can see your friends’ photos

View and make changes to your own profile

See your circles and how they overlap. You can also change the names of your circles here.

And you can play games. Be careful using this feature if you have a small download limit – games can eat into it fast.

How private is Google+?
There aren’t too many privacy settings on Google+ at the moment for two reasons. Google+ is relatively new, so they haven’t finished adding all the options, and because you can very easily choose who sees what information using the circles system.

If you want to keep your profile totally private, you can go to the profile button and click ‘Edit Profile’.

If you scroll all the way to the bottom and click ‘Search Visibility’…

…you can choose to remain invisible during searches. This will keep your account much more private, but it does mean that people who know you may not be able to find you.

If you are already a Google+ aficionado share your tips with our members at the YOURLifeChoices meeting place.